The best sales reps are…librarians?

I am lucky. I am able to work with a group of very talented sales professionals on a daily basis. I probably learn more from them every day than they could learn from me, but don’t tell them that! One of the fundamental skills ReluTech tries to reinforce in every training is the significance of listening. Duh, right? Nevertheless, why is listening so important? I think most sales reps would tell you something different every time. “Listening makes the customer feel important,” or “A customer might say something that will uncover a need for us to sell one of our products.” The reps might not even think listening is important and say, “If customers do all the talking, how will they know what I do and how I can help?” That’s a problem for another day.

For us, listening is key for so many different reasons, but mainly because knowledge is power. The more we listen, the more we can learn and understand our customers, opportunities, needs, environments, details, politics, roadblocks, barriers, pros, cons, competition, etc. However, simply listening is not enough. There is a skill and an art to listening.

Remember in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” when Sidney Deane and Billy Hoyle are talking about Jimi Hendrix? Sidney tells Billy, “Look man, you can listen to Jimi, but you can’t hear him. There’s a difference man. Just because you’re listening to him doesn’t mean you’re hearing him.” Man, I love that movie!

I tell my reps the same thing. You have to be an active listener. You have to “hear between the lines.” You have to be able to sort through the noise and fluff and dig right into the real pain that the customer is experiencing – and you have to take notes. You have to religiously take notes. Most of us will not be able to remember everything a customer says, let alone having multiple meetings a day over the course of many weeks, months, and years.

Listen and take notes. Listen and take notes. Listen and take notes. I could say that one million times to my reps, and it probably wouldn’t be enough. The reality is, for sales reps, we are all building our own Libraries. Each customer represents a book. Each meeting, discussion, phone call, and interaction is a new chapter. When we take notes and listen, we are gathering the information to write our narrative with the customer. We are writing stories. After all, each customer is unique, and each story is different. The only way to keep up and become successful sales reps is to build that Library. We should never stop reading our notes, learning from our interactions, and being relevant to our customers and prospects.

So yes, in my opinion, the best reps out there are Librarians. They own many books (customers), they know the intimate details of these books, and they relate their stories (products) to their customers, so they remain relevant.

Listen, take notes, and make sure that although you are listening, you are actually “hearing Jimi.”